Belmont digs out after storm

BELMONT – Earlier this week, Cassie Jones was still clearing tree debris from her driveway with a leafblower while pieces of the carport’s roof dangled overhead.
All around the Ebenezer Street house where Jones lives with her husband, Tim, and their 2- and 4-year-old children, signs of the storm’s destructive path in Belmont were still evident.
Jones, her two children, and her baby niece were all in her bed when the storm hit about 3:45 a.m. on April 27.
“I think I heard the last part of it,” Cassie Jones said. “Stuff was hitting the windows, and the only thing I knew to do was get the kids and me on the floor and pull the mattress down on top of us.”
Moments later the event was over and everyone was safe, with only minor damage to the house and 15-20 trees on the property down. The tree that fell over the edge of the carport kept the couple from getting their cars out.
Belmont was among the Northeast Mississippi communities battered by last week’s outbreak of tornadoes that killed more than 35 people in the state. The category F2 tornado that struck Belmont caused no deaths and only minor injuries, but it tore about a nine-mile path through south Tishomingo County with winds of about 125 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Memphis.
Behind the Joneses and up the hill is the rear of the home of Ernestine and Gene Timms, which faces state Highway 25.
From the front, only minor roof damage is visible, but Ernestine Timms said that in back the tornado blew down three outbuildings, threw the fence that had been around her in-ground swimming pool up against the house and blew away some of the outdoor furniture.
“We were blessed, though,” she said. “Everything we lost were just things.”
Ernestine Timms and her 8-year-old grandson, Garrett Rooker, made it to the basement after they were awakened by “the awfulest roar and racket, roof popping and cracking” she’d ever heard.
Because Gene Timms has breathing difficulties, he couldn’t move quickly enough to get to the basement before it was all over.
“God just had his hand on us,” Ernestine Timms said. “If the house had been hit I don’t know what would have happened to him.”
The speed with which much of the destruction – downed trees and power lines, debris from rooftops and buildings – were removed from Belmont’s streets and yards is a tribute to tremendous volunteer efforts and local government assistance.
On the east side of Highway 25, not far from the Timms’ home, Mark Chumbley’s Red Bud Supply, which employs about 20 people and supplies emergency equipment to local governments, suffered a pretty big blow from the storm.
“We have one warehouse that blew away and there’s not much salvageable,” Chumbley said. “Our main building, I don’t know if it’s repairable or not. We salvaged some data and a few servers, but not a whole lot.”
Fortunately, he was able to move operations temporarily into another space, and the employees who take orders have been working from home.
“We were very blessed,” Chumbley said. “I thank the good Lord that everything is as well as it is. With lots of help from the community we got most of our stock moved, about 90 pallets. People have donated free labor to help us get back up, but we’re not there yet. The people in Smithville are hurting a lot worse than we are. The things we lost can be replaced.”
After assuring that there was no loss of life or serious injuries from the storm, Belmont Alderman Steve Smith said all the attention turned to getting power back to people, patching holes in roofs, making streets passable and getting everything that was blown about cleared up.
“All of our local contractors furnished equipment and manpower,” Smith said. “We also had lots of help from our local police, firemen, maintenance department, sheriff’s office, the board of supervisors, the Red Cross and the power company. I would say 70 percent of the homes had power back on the day the storm hit.”
In the midst of storm recovery efforts – though not related to the storm – former Mayor Bob Yarber died Sunday after a long illness, Smith said.
“I was elected alderman under his administration, as was our current mayor, Buddy Wiltshire,” Smith said. “I think he mentored three of our five aldermen, and we’re carrying out things now that he started. He’s irreplaceable, and we relied on him for a lot of things.”
Across the county’s District 5, more than 50 houses suffered damage, said District 5 Supervisor James McDowell.
Along with Red Bud Supply, the building that was formerly the Falcon Industries plant suffered heavy damage, as did a BP gas station.
“It pretty well cut a path through the 5th District then to Alabama,” McDowell said. “It was more in the air when it came through our community and kept a lot of injuries and things from occurring. We do have quite a bit of damage out in the county area, several houses with roof damage, barns torn up and trees uprooted.”
The town held a communitywide cleanup day Saturday, and it drew more than 500 people to the town of about 2,000 residents, McDowell said.
“Things just came together and the response was really great,” he said.

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@journalinc.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal